A 21-year-old Malaysian man has been arrested on suspicion of planning to attack non-Muslims and their places of worship, having reportedly been ordered to do so from Islamic State militants in Syria.

Malaysian soldiers and police officers check security at Batu Caves in Selangor, Malaysia, on 22 January 2016

The man, who was not named, “received instructions from a Malaysian Da’esh [IS] member in Syria to buy a pistol, a M-16 rifle, an AK-47 rifle and hand grenades from a neighbouring country, with the aim of launching attacks on non-Muslims and  their places of worship”, according to a police spokesman, as reported by Channel News Asia.

The man had reportedly attempted three times to make a bomb, having received instructions from a Saudi bomb expert and Malaysian fugitive Mahmud Ahmad – who is part of the IS-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, two other Malaysian men were arrested in separate raids – a 41-year-old bus driver who reportedly planned to join IS in Syria by the end of 2017, and a 38-year-old who reportedly planned to join IS in the southern Philippines, where IS-inspired militants continue to besiege the city of Marawi, and a militant group in Rahkine state in Myanmar. The 38-year-old “actively printed and distributed [IS] flags to promote the group’s struggles”, according to police.

The three arrests took place in separate raids in the western states of Perak, Selangor and Malacca.